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Arlen Roth: Tips for Developing Your Style

Arlen Roth
Arlen Roth

One of the most exciting parts of you being a guitar player, and of your further development as a player, is the evolution you will go through. There is nothing like watching the natural evolution of your playing, and in my opinion, it’s really the best thing about being a player to begin with! After all, it is we who control the player we will become, and the inner influences as well as the external ones really have an important influence on us.

I always felt very good about the evolution of my playing, and, especially being a totally self-taught player, I was able to very clearly track the way in which my playing evolved and the kinds of influences I “took in.” I did make some very clear decisions in terms of what I liked, and what I either didn’t like, or didn’t feel right playing at a certain time. After all, all of these evolutionary things must occur at the right time in your development process, or else they will never have the desired effect.

I started as a classical guitar player, and that gave me a nice “respect” for the guitar’s properties, and furthermore made me understand that to be really good on the instrument, it was going to take real dedication. I quickly moved onto other styles that even though they were totally non-classical, they benefitted from my classical technique. Blues fingerstyle, slide guitar and other more “rootsy” and traditional finger-picking totally benefitted from my newfound four-fingered approach. It wasn’t for about 5 years till I finally gave in to using a flatpick. And even then, sure enough, I ended up creating a “hybrid” style that combined the flat- and finger-picked style.

All of that quickly led to my country style, which I was falling in love with at the same time I was absorbing all I could about blues. So while I was loving someone like Son House, I was also equally into Merle Travis! This gave me a very well-rounded backdrop of influences which enabled me to keep on developing within those styles while creating my own styles and techniques at the same time!

I had always held off on attaining a good jazz influence and style, but I didn’t want to so dive headfirst into jazz that I would lose the natural evolution I was already experiencing. The truth was, I was already improvising in a true jazz sense, but I just needed to further fine tune my ear to be open to what made jazz sound like jazz.

There’s no doubt that you already have your heroes on the guitar, and that you have also chosen certain influences and starting points for your playing. With that being said, keep in mind that there may be some further investigation when it comes to the guitar that will help you delve even deeper into the playing you love, and which will help your playing evolve in a more complete way! There’s always more that can be learned, so go for it!!’s Arlen Roth, affectionately known The King of All Guitar Teachers, is music lesson pioneer and the quintessential guitarist. An accomplished and brilliant musician – and one of the very few who can honestly say he’s done it all – Roth has, over the course of his celebrated 35-year career, played on the world’s grandest stages, accompanied many of the greatest figures in modern music and revolutionized the concept of teaching guitar.

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